UPDATE 4-Small town evacuated after oil train derails in North Dakota

Wed May 6, 2015 10:51pm EDT
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(Adds confirmation railcars were owned by Hess)

By Ernest Scheyder and Kristen Hays

WILLISTON, N.D./HOUSTON May 6 (Reuters) - A BNSF train carrying crude oil owned by Hess Corp derailed and caught fire in North Dakota on Wednesday, forcing the evacuation of a nearby small town just days after the United States and Canada announced reforms to improve the safety of such shipments.

About 40 residents from the tiny Wells County town of Heimdal were evacuated after 10 tank cars left the rails, fire officials and the state's emergency management agency said.

There were no injuries, officials said.

Black smoke was visible for miles just after the early-morning accident as more than 300,000 gallons of crude oil burned. Emergency responders from five communities set up a command center near scorched wheat fields adjacent to the train tracks as a steady rain fell, a Reuters photographer said.

By evening, crews were erecting berms to protect nearby wetlands and preparing foam to attempt to smother the last of the flames. However, officials still had not lifted the evacuation order.

The crude oil was loaded into Hess-owned railcars at the oil producer's crude-by-rail facility in Tioga, roughly 170 miles (270 km) to the northeast. A BNSF locomotive met the 109 cars, two of which carried sand; the rest were filled with crude.

Heimdal is located along one of the main rail lines heading east out of the state's giant Bakken oil patch. About two-thirds of all North Dakota oil production is shipped by rail, three-quarters of that to refiners on the U.S. East Coast.   Continued...